November 30, 2007

Making Moves

It’s time for me to say goodbye to my BBQ, smoker, big kitchen, dishwasher, fully stocked fridge and cupboards, stove from this decade, country air, garden and free rent. I’m making moves back to the city and although I’m looking forward to it, there are clearly some things that I will miss from home. I don’t know when I’ll have internet hooked up again so this may be my last post for a while. I’ve got a few queued up to go in my absence but who knows if that will actually work out or not. While I’m gone, I hope you’ll enjoy one of my favourite scallop recipes that I’ve been making for the past two years, ever since the October 2005 issue of Bon Appetit arrived on my doorstep. I decided I had to put it up on the blog so that I would always have the recipe no matter where I was. My new place is substantially smaller than where I’m at now so I can’t bring all of my cookbooks and magazines with me. L I’m sure I’ll replace the ones I leave behind with new ones that I won’t have room for, but that’s ok, I’ll just pile them into bed with me. Before I can clutter up my new place though, I first have to pack and move everything there. I’m a procrastinator so I’ve only just begun but I’m also a Tetris master and as such I’m confident that I can fit everything into where it needs to go.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds, (from Bon Appetit, October 2005)

16 large sea scallops, side muscles removed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
2/3 cup Champagne grapes (about 4 ounces) or black grapes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in very large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook butter until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add scallops; cook 2 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to plate; tent with foil. Melt remaining butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and grapes; sauté until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and any accumulated scallop juices. Bring mixture to boil; season with salt and pepper. Stir in almonds and parsley.

Place 4 scallops on each of 4 plates. Spoon sauce over and serve.

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November 29, 2007

It's That Time of Year...

Gift giving time is rapidly approaching and if you’ve got a foodie on your list, I’ve got a few recommendations for you. I’m not getting anything out of endorsing these products, they’re just things I like.

Lee Valley Zesters

I use this on a daily basis to zest citrus fruit, grate frozen ginger or a hard block of parmesan. I love my zester and don’t think any kitchen is complete without one.

The Spice Depot Grinders

A few months back I was sent a Garlic Pepper grinder and a Spicy Chicken grinder to test out from the folks at The Spice Depot. They’re both empty now. I’ve used them for dry rubs on meat, seasoning at the table and as an added kick to soups and stews. I especially liked the Garlic Pepper and would imagine the Spicy Sea Salt is pretty versatile too.

Stainless Steel Pastry Scraper

The one I’ve linked to is from Williams Sonoma, but any stainless steel pastry scraper would do. Like the zester, I use this on an almost daily basis. Whenever I’m making any sort of bread, pie crust, pastry or pasta I use it to scrape my counters clean as well as cut and transport the dough. It’s beyond useful.

Real Vanilla Beans

The Arizona Vanilla company sells whole vanilla beans at dirt cheap prices on ebay. You haven’t truly tasted vanilla until you’ve made your own vanilla bean ice cream using the whole pod to flavour it instead of some artificial liquid. I never used to use real vanilla beans because I thought they were too expensive but this site proved me wrong and I love them now.

A Wooden Spoon Made of Cherry

I picked this site at random because its spoon looked most like mine. My Dad made my favourite wooden spoon out of cherry wood from my Grandparents’ orchard and it’s the spoon I reach for no matter what I’m making. Everyone needs a favourite wooden spoon.

Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

Unless this is your first time to my blog you will already know much I adore this book and it’s wonderful author. If you don’t own Baking already, I don’t know what you’re waiting for, it’s so good you should have two of them.


Ok, so this isn’t really a stocking stuffer, but it may very well be my favourite kitchen item, (although I feel guilty saying that as I’m supposed to love all of my kitchen gadgets equally). If you haven’t seen the videos on Will It Blend? you certainly have to check them out. This blender can do everything and more.

If I were Oprah I'd give these all away, but sadly I'm not and I still haven't found my life sponsor so you'll just have to hope some nice person buys these for you. Now I want to know- What are some of your favourite things?

And for those of you still wondering, the answers to the riddles are:

A river.



A snake.

November 28, 2007

Unleashing the Awesome Power of Apples

Peabody of none other than Culinary Concoctions by Peabody has recently moved and is hosting a virtual housewarming party now that she’s settled into her new digs. At first I wasn’t sure what to bring, but I’ve been baking lots lately so I knew I’d find something. Last night alone I made six pies. Just call me the pie maker, I make pies. There is no pie in this post though, only bars and cookies. I made the cookies last weekend for the American Thanksgiving when my brother and his family came up to visit.

While they were here I asked the Baby Genius what kind of cookies he would like Auntie Brilynn to make for him and he replied that he only liked Chocolate Chippy cookies. According to my sister-in-law, both my brother and the Baby Genius insist on having chocolate chips in EVERYTHING. Having recently seen Peabody’s Twirly Cookies, (also known as Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies) I decided to make those as they fit the chocolate chippy criteria. There was nothing but positive feedback from the cookies and I think it was as a result of those that I made some headway in the game of “What do you like more?” When asked what do you like more, ice cream or Auntie Brilynn? Baby Genius responded Auntie Brilynn! That is a huge accomplishment for me. Who would have ever thought I could beat out ice cream in a competition? However I didn’t fare so well in the next round when he was asked what do you like more, squirrels or Auntie Brilynn? Squirrels won.

But back to the housewarming party, I can’t very well bring Peabody her own cookies, so I decided to bring her some of Dorie’s Applesauce Spice Bars. Peabody is convinced I have a Dorie Greenspan shrine in my basement so it seemed only fitting that I perpetuate this belief by bringing a Dorie recipe to the party. These bars aren’t flashy by any means, but they have a very homey and comforting feel to them, perfect for a housewarming party. Enjoy Peabody!

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November 26, 2007

Riddles and Bread

Some people are afraid of working with yeast. The problem is that they don’t understand how it works. The more you know about yeast, the less scary and easier it is to work with. I will liken yeast to a riddle. When you don’t know the solution to the riddle, it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you’ve made many attempts at an answer, but to no avail. Once you've figured out the riddle though, it seems easy and you can't help but see the solution immediately if you hear it again. Bread works in a similar manner. Once you've got it figured out, it's smooth sailing. This month’s Daring Baker Challenge was Tender Potato Bread as chosen by our host for this round, Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups.

To check out hundreds of other attempts at Tender Potato Bread, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll. There you will learn all you need to know about taming yeast in your kitchen. If you need to crack a few riddles to get your problem solving skills going, give these a try:

What runs all day but never walks,

Often murmurs never talks,

Has a bed but doesn’t sleep,

Has a mouth but doesn’t eat?

I am no sooner spoken, than broken. What am I?

I am always hungry, I must always be fed,

The finger I touch, Will soon turn red.

I can sizzle like bacon, I am made with an egg,

I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg.

I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole,

I can be long, like a flagpole, yet fit in a hole.

What am I?

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November 19, 2007


Yesterday was a gorgeous day and today was supposed to be sunny with potentially record breaking temperatures. Instead it's pouring rain, damp and cold. It's funny how quickly things change and how you can be looking forward to something so much, only to be disappointed. Well you know November has come when the good weather has gone away.

One thing you can rely on though, is that a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours is going to turn out just the way you thought it should. Molten chocolate cakes topped with lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream ooze deliciousness and take no time at all to make. Kids Thumbprint cookies take the quintessential kid favourite, the PB&J sandwich and turn it into a two-bite treat; a peanut butter cookie rolled in chopped peanuts and dotted with gooey jam.

November 18, 2007

Zarne That's Good Chowder!

I asked a friend of mine to give me a story for the blog because I’ve been uninspired lately. I’ve got a bunch of recipes typed up and pictures edited but I don’t seem to have any stories to go with them. This chowder, for example, has been floating around in my computer for a few weeks now. My friend asked me to write a post about foods that were small and easy to eat while playing an intense board game… such as Boggle. I know there are closet Boggle players out there, don’t even lie to me. If it’s not Boggle, it’s Scrabble, (or if you’re a Facebook fan, Scrabulous) or Pick Two or Crosswords or some other word game, I know I’m not the only one who likes word games. But I digress, the problem with getting hooked on one of these games is that it’s difficult to eat and play at the same time. This became increasingly evident a couple nights ago when I was over at another friend’s house where we were playing various board games and eating snacks. A correlation became clear between the amount of food being eaten and board game success. The more snacks you ate, the worse you played. For example, one player was convinced that he could play the word “zarne” because that was all he could come up with while devouring caramel popcorn and garlic parmesan chips. I requested that he use “zarne” in a sentence but he declined to do so because his mouth was full. Snack food was definitely his game playing downfall. You’re probably wondering how clam chowder factors into all of this, well, instead of writing a post about the best foods to eat while playing board games, I have a suggestion for the worst food to eat: soup. Soup is a bad idea. Things that require a spoon and can slosh are bad ideas. Clam chowder is not a good thing to make on board game night, but an excellent meal to make any other night of the week. And I happen to have a soft spot for anything by Michael Smith, so there you have it, my clam chowder post is finally up.

Maritime Clam Chowder (from Chef at Home by Michael Smith)

4 slices of chopped bacon

A chopped onion

2 chopped celery stalks

A generous splash of any white wine

A cup of heavy cream

A cup of milk

Two 5 oz cans of clam meat

A large unpeeled baking potato

2 bay leaves

3 or 4 sprigs of thyme

A 12 oz can of unsweetened evaporated milk

A sprinkle or two of salt and pepper

A handful of flat leaf parsley leaves

Toss the bacon into a heavy bottomed soup pot with a splash of water. Stir on medium high heat until it crisps nicely. Pour off most of the fat. Add another splash of water to loosen the flavourful bits on the bottom, then add the onion and celery. Saute them for a few minutes until they soften and smell great.

Add the white win, cream, milk and clams. Coarsely grate the potato with a standard box grater and add it along with the bay leaves and thyme. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down a notch or two and continue simmering until the grated potato softens, releasing its starches and thickening the chowder, about 20 minutes.

Add the evaporated milk and continue stirring until it’s heated through. Taste the chowder and season it well with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately with your favourite biscuits.

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November 17, 2007

"I Have A Tiny Chef That Tells Me What To Do"

I may be the last person in the world, (or at least the food blogosphere) but I’ve finally seen Ratatouille! I wanted to see it ever since I heard that Thomas Keller was a consultant but then, as will happen when you live where I do, it NEVER came to my theatre. Yes, that’s theatre, singular. There is but one and Ratatouille was never played there. That’s unacceptable. It’s enough to make a person move to a city. In fact, I am. Two weeks from now I will never have to wait for a movie to come out on DVD ever again. It’s a pleasant thought. But back to Ratatouille… That Remy was one smart rat, but it doesn’t surprise me, I have witnessed some smart rodents in my day. There is one in particular, a chipmunk, that has bested my Dad. This chipmunk, I will call him Remykin, lives at the nearly constructed golf course down the road. Since this spring, when the golf course opened, Dad has been rescuing lost golf balls and has amassed quite a stash of them. At last count he had 662. This is a somewhat disappointing number as he had hoped to hit 1000 balls by the end of the year. When he first started rescuing balls he would come home with 20 or 30 at once, but then those numbers began to fall. There was still the same number of golfers, but for some reason less lost balls. For a while this was puzzling. It didn’t make any sense.

Then, one day, while trekking through the woods on a golf ball hunt Dad discovered the reason for the missing balls. It seems that our pal Remykin had decided that golf balls were an awful lot like nuts. So much so, that he should hoard them to enjoy later on during the cold winter months. What Dad found was a dead tree, filled with half gnawed golf balls. There were hundreds of them and as he looked closer he realized that quite a few of the dead trees surrounding that one were also filled with golf balls. That Remykin had been one busy chipmunk. Many of the balls had already been chewed to the core, rendering them completely useless and thus not able to be counted in the grand total of rescued golf balls. And although Dad will get the last laugh come January when it’s -30°C, Munchie is the one doing all the laughing right now. I try to stay out of their feud whenever possible and to make sure that there’s a hot and tasty meal on the table when Dad comes home from one of his searches, like this braised chicken with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, served with basmati rice. Perhaps I’d better stash some of it in the freezer for him to retrieve during the January cold spell because in two weeks time, I won’t be here to make it anymore. I’m confident that he can fend for himself though and hopefully won’t have to resort to golf ball soup.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Sun Dried Tomatoes (From Gourmet, December 1993)

1/3 cup thinly sliced drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil
1 large whole chicken breast with skin and bones (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
a beurre manié made by kneading together 1 1/2 teaspoons softened unsalted butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons minced all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed)

In a heavy skillet heat the reserved tomato oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, in it brown the chicken, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper, and transfer it to a plate. In the fat remaining in the skillet cook the onion, the garlic, the basil, and the red pepper flakes over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, until the mushrooms are softened. Whisk in the wine, the broth, and the tomato paste, add the chicken to the skillet, and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer the mixture, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep it warm, covered. Whisk the beurre manié into the sauce, whisking until sauce is smooth, add the sun-dried tomatoes, and simmer the sauce, whisking, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it is thickened. Stir in the parsley and pour the sauce over the chicken.

I served this over basmati rice that I cooked in half water, half orange juice.

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November 14, 2007

Whisking Like It's My Job

Since I was unable to do things correctly, I spent a lot of time whisking pastry cream today. Fortunately, the repetitive whisking became almost soothing. It really doesn’t take that long to make pastry cream, but it does when you make it three times. Dad kept passing through the kitchen and noting that I hadn’t moved from where he’d last seen me. Why was I making pastry cream? Because when someone puts in a request for a baked good, I usually oblige. It may take me a while to get around to making it, but if you wait long enough, it will happen. Such was the case with these éclairs. Mom had been bugging me for a while to make them, (along with mille feuille, which still hasn’t happened) and even went so far as to peruse my cookbooks and bookmark a Donna Hay recipe for chocolate éclairs.

I set about making them somewhat apprehensively. I’ve made pate a choux and pastry cream before which are the two components of éclairs, but I’ve not always been successful in these ventures. Today was no exception. The batter for the éclairs turned out thinner than I thought it should have, but I plowed on. The result was flat éclairs that needed to be constructed in sandwich format instead of cut open and filled. As for the pastry cream, I made it not once, not twice but thrice! The first two attempts were chocolate pastry cream and they did not work out at all. The first cream was too thin and was more like a soup than filling material. The second cream got too hot and the chocolate separated, which made for an oily mess. I took a break before deciding to attempt pastry cream for the third time and when I finally gave it a go, I turned to a Dorie Greenspan recipe for vanilla pastry cream that eliminated my problem with chocolate. Dorie solves all problems, at least in the cooking world. I wonder how she fares with life issues? Maybe she could start a Dear Dorie column…

Double Chocolate Eclairs (From Donna Hay’s Simple Essentials Chocolate)

1 cup (250ml) water

100g (3 ½ oz) butter

¾ cup (4 ¼ oz) all purpose flour

5 eggs

1 quantity chocolate crème patissiere, (I replaced this with Dorie’s Pastry Cream, see below for the recipe, it makes more than you need)

melted dark chocolate, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350C. Place the water and butter in a saucepan over high heat and cook until butter is melted and the mixture starts to simmer. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Remove from heat and place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add eggs, gradually, beating on high speed until well combined. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a 12mm plain nozzle. Pipe 8cm lengths of mixture onto baking trays lined with non stick baking paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks. Halve éclairs and fill bases with chocolate crème patissiere. Dip the tops in chocolate, allow to set. Sandwich tops to bases. Makes 12.

Pastry Cream (From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours)

2 cups whole milk

6 large egg yolks

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted

1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

3 ½ T unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in a bout ¼ of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so that they won’t curdle. Whisking al the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate until cold.

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November 13, 2007

Cooking with World of Warcraft

Sometimes you find a connection where you least expect to. Such was the case this weekend when I was educated on a few of the intricacies of the online role playing game, World of Warcraft, (WoW). I know people who spend countless hours in front of the computer, doing whatever it is they do to advance their position in WoW. It’s not something I’ve ever had any interest in playing as my gaming ability was maxed out after Tetris and Super Mario Kart, but as I’ve recently learned, it might not be altogether evil either. What I didn’t know about WoW was that among the various tasks that you can complete, (don’t ask me how or why said tasks are actually completed) cooking and baking are among them! Are you serious? That’s almost reason enough for me to take it up. For anyone who plays WoW, you might want to turn away at this point while I butcher the game with my interpretation of how things work. In my mind the game is now composed entirely of various levels of chefs who go around collecting recipes and having IronChef-like battles for game supremacy. Have I taken things too far? Before I drifted into my own version of Chef WoW, I was told that there really are recipes for which you have to find ingredients. If you were making this Fish Soup for example, you’d first have to go catch the fish. My recipe instructs buying it, but if you want to go fishing, I’m all for it.

Provençale Fish Soup with Pasta (From The Soup Bible, Ed; Debra Mayhew)

2 T olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 leek, sliced

4 cups water

8 oz canned chopped tomatoes

a pinch of Mediterranean herbs

¼ tsp saffron threads

4 oz small pasta

1 lb white fish, such as cod, plaice or monfish, filleted and skinned, (I used a mixture of cod and smoked cod)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic and leek. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the water, tomatoes, herbs, saffron and pasta. Season and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Cut the fish into bite sized chunks and add to the soup. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the fish is cooked.

Serve with crusty bread.

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November 11, 2007

Lemony Jewels

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Often times when I’m looking to bake something but I’m not sure what, I’ll turn to to find the answer. Using the search engine on Epicurious allows you to search past recipes from such wonderful magazines as Bon Appetit and Gourmet. Nine times out of ten I will find something from one of those magazines that catches my eye. That was the case today when I felt like making cookies, but couldn’t pinpoint what kind of cookies. These Lemon Thumbprints were the first ones to jump out at me and I had all of the ingredients so I was off to the kitchen to make them.

I’d never made thumbprint cookies before, but they appealed to me for a few reasons. Firstly, they’re pretty, and I would be lying if I said a baked goods visual appeal doesn’t influence what I think of it. I know there are tons of ugly but delicious cookies out there and plenty of beauties that aren’t palatable, but if you can marry taste and looks you’ve got yourself one stellar cookie. That was my hope when I began making these thumbprints. The other reason that I chose them was that there was something childish and fun about these cookies. I think this is the only treat that you can stick your fingers into and not be scolded for. That’s reason enough to make them for me.

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Lemon Thumbprint Cookies, (Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 1999)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons (about) jam or jelly

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets.

Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg yolks, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt.

Add flour in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather dough together in bowl to bind dough.

Chill for 15 minutes.

Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Using finger, make deep indentation in center of each ball. If you want the jam to be slightly chewy, spoon it in before putting the cookies into the oven.
Bake cookies until firm to touch and golden on bottom, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately fill indentation in each cookie with scant 1/2 teaspoon jam or jelly. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container at room temperature. Cookies will soften slightly.)

November 10, 2007

The Leftovers Are the Best Part

This is not a recipe for those who are looking to get dinner on the table in a hurry. That being said, despite the fact that it takes two days to make, this brisket doesn’t require a lot of hands on time and the results are well worth the wait. Plus, unless you’re hosting a dinner party, chances are you’ll have leftovers to make fantastic sandwiches for lunch the next day, (with pickles and grainy mustard). Did I mention I got to use the smoker? Oh yeah!

I find a lot of people shy away from recipes that require planning a day in advance to start marinating the meat but once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll quickly learn that it’s not hard to do and adds a lot of flavour to the final outcome. This particular recipe is a bit different in that it calls for injecting the meat with a meat injector needle, I had quite the adventure with that one. In trying to inject the meat I managed to spray my kitchen with marinade, multiple times… It’s all part of the fun of playing in the kitchen though, because if things didn’t get messy, I wasn’t trying hard enough.

Beef Brisket (From Grilled to Perfection: Recipes from License to Grill by Chris Knight and Tyler J. Smith)

8 lb beef brisket with ½ inch fat cap

12 cups apple woodchips

Meat injector needle

Dry Rub

½ cup brown sugar

2 T chili flakes

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp oregano

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp coriander

2 tsp dry mustard

1 T ground black pepper


¼ cup apple cider

1 T cider vinegar

¼ cup beef broth

1 tsp hot sauce

1 tsp dried mustard

2 tsp pepper

1 tsp onion powder

¼ cup melted butter

Combine dry rub ingredients and rub into brisket.

Combine marinade ingredients in a large measuring cup.

Fill meat injector needle with marinade and inject the rub-covered beef brisket thoughout.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Soak 8 cups of apple woodchips in water.

Build a smoke pouch by squeezing the excess water from 2 cups of wet woodchips and place on a large piece of aluminum foil. Place 1 cup of dry woodchips on top and mix them together. Close foil around chips to make a sealed package. Using a fork, puncture holes in both sides of the pack to allow smoke to flow through and infuse the meat. Kake a total of 4 foil pouches.

Place drip pan underneath one side of grill. Place smoke pouch on the opposite side. Turn heat on under the smoke pouch to 350F. Close lid and wait for smoke.

Place brisket on cool side of grill over the drip pan. Close lid. Allow brisket to slowly smoke for 8 hours, change smoke pouches when smoke dissipates, (approximately every 2 hours).

Remove beef brisket from heat, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Carve against the grain and serve on crusty buns with mustard & pickles.

Serves 8.

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November 07, 2007

How Did That Get There?

Don’t let the chocolate bars in the picture fool you, there is no chocolate in these muffins. Don’t let that dissuade you from making them though, they’re honey bran muffins with blueberries and they complete any breakfast. The reason for the chocolate bars is that they’re what I found while making these muffins. I reached into the baking cupboard to pull out the brown sugar and three chocolate bars fell out.

I didn’t put them there and I wasn’t supposed to find them either. My Dad put them there, somehow thinking he was hiding them. When I find things like chocolate ‘hiding’ in the baking cupboard I can’t help but laugh. This is the last place in the house that anyone should try to hide something from me. I am the primary baker in the house, (I wanted to type only, but I thought that might garner some indignation from Mom, the baker who hasn’t actually baked anything in years…) and as such, I use that cupboard on an almost daily basis as it houses such essential ingredients as baking powder and soda, sugar, vanilla, dried fruit, etc… And yet this is a common hiding place for Dad’s chocolate stash.

He knows that if he leaves the chocolate laying out in the open, I’ll eat it but doesn’t think I’ll find it if it’s tucked behind the brown sugar. In reality, the only person this chocolate remains hidden from is Mom, the other ‘baker’. I find this funny to no end. But even if you don’t share my sense of humour, I encourage you to bake these muffins. They come together in minutes and everyone loves a warm treat from the oven with their breakfast. Tip: If you make them with blueberries you’ll be forgiven for stealing chocolate from the secret hiding spot in the baking cupboard.

Honey Bran Muffins
(From Muffin Mania by Cathy Prange and Joan Paula)

1 cup natural bran
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup butter or margarine
½ cup brown sugar
2 T honey
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries, (optional, these are Dad’s addition)

Soak bran in buttermilk while preparing the rest.

Cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in the honey and egg. Add the bran and buttermilk.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add dry ingredients and stir until moistened. If you’re using blueberries, add them now.

Bake at 375 °F for 15-20 minutes.

**This post also appears at the Just Baking site.

November 06, 2007

Cake: Round 2

As promised, here is birthday cake number two; it’s my traditional black forest cake done up a little differently. I wanted a black forest cake but I didn’t want to make it as big as usual as there is still cheesecake leftover. To solve this problem, I took a recipe for a 9 inch round cake, baked it in a 9 inch square pan and then sliced the finished cake into 4 equal pieces which I layered to form 2 mini square cakes. I originally wanted to make a super tall 4 layer cake, but then common sense won me over and I realized that a cake that tall would fall over pretty much as soon as it was put together. I made a quick white and dark cherry jam, (with frozen cherries from my Grandparents’ orchard) to spread between the cake layers and covered both cakes with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Like it is every year on my birthday, it was cold and rainy yesterday, (at least it wasn’t sleet, hail or snow as those are all options for November 5th as well). It doesn’t matter where I am, the weather is guaranteed to be miserable on my birthday. Yesterday was no exception. I’ve come to accept this. I don’t accept it happily, but I accept it. Perhaps this is part of the reason why I’m not a big fan of my own birthday. I like presents and cake and big dinners, but you get all that at Christmas too with a lot less expectations. I find that a lot of people overhype their birthdays and are subsequently disappointed. They build it up to be a big day and if everything doesn’t work out, they become upset. It seems to be a particularly touchy subject if someone doesn’t show up to their birthday, or worse, forgets it altogether. If someone forgets my birthday and remembers three months later and wishes me a happy day, I’m ok with that, I tell them I’ve got another one coming up next year too. No big deal.

None of this is to say that I don’t appreciate the effort that anyone else puts out in order to make another person’s birthday special. I appreciate it to no end. So to all those who brightened my day on my birthday, thank you. And to all those who are only just now realizing that my birthday is passed, don’t worry, I still like you and you’re both invited over for what’s left of the cake. If it’s all gone by the time you get here, I’ll make a new one!

Chocolate Cake (From Gourmet, April 1999)

3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 300°F. Generously butter a 9-inch round cake pan (at least 2 inches deep) and line bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.

Finely chop chocolate. In a small saucepan combine cocoa powder, butter, oil, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until smooth, and remove pan from heat. Add chocolate and sugar, whisking until smooth, and transfer to a bowl. Cool chocolate mixture completely and whisk in egg. Sift flour and baking powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Whisk in buttermilk and pour batter into cake pan, spreading evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto rack. Discard paper. Cool cake completely and transfer to a plate.

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I’m Gonna Bake My Cake and Eat It Too

Today is my birthday and I’m making and eating cake! Lots of it. Some people seem sad when I tell them I made my own birthday cake, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also made ribs for my birthday dinner and both of those things made me happy. I like being in the kitchen so being able to create a big meal, complete with dessert is fun for me. Hear that? It’s fun! That means if I get one more person give me a look like their dog just died when I tell them I made my own cake, I’m going to shove a piece of it in their pitiful face. But it’s tasty cake, so maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

I actually made myself two birthday cakes. The first one is pictured here; a mint-white-and-dark-cheesecake. We ate half of it last night with friends and there was still half of the cheesecake left when we were finished, so I assumed we could continue eating that today on my actual birthday. Mom then informed me that I needed to have a new cake for my birthday and that I should therefore bake myself one! I was happy to comply, (and for the record, Dad offered to make my second cake for me but I insisted that I would do it) and decided to return to my traditional birthday gateau which is a black forest cake. There will be more pictures of that one tomorrow, possibly even with a recipe. I’m currently stuffed full of cake and ready for bed. Please take a piece of cake with you when you go.

November 05, 2007

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Everything’s easier when your oven works. I realize than an oven isn’t essential to waffle making, but I just feel better in general, knowing that my oven is functioning properly. Sparks however, are not a sign of good oven functioning. Sparks lead to fires. Fires in the kitchen are not good unless what you are trying to serve is flambéed.

Two nights ago I was sitting in the living room when I heard a noise coming from the kitchen. It was not a familiar noise. I turned towards the source and instead of the kitchen being dark like it should have been, there was an orange glow. I sent Dad to investigate and what he found was a broken oven element, arcing and sending off sparks. It thankfully died out on its own, but when it did, it took the power of my oven with it. This meant that on a Saturday morning I had to trek into town to find an oven element supplier, preferably a knowledgeable one.

The first store that I went into did sell oven elements but not the right ones. The salesperson I spoke with told me I would have no problem with a particular element and handed it over for me to be on my merry way. I was glad to have asked for a second opinion, because the second, more informed salesperson told me that the element I was holding in my hand at the cash register, would not work in my oven and they didn’t carry the one that would. Onward to a second store. Luckily they had what I needed and I returned home and had Dad install it for me.

A fixed oven meant my waffles this morning could be kept toasty warm while I completed the entire batch and I could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that if I had an urge to bake a banana upside down cake at 3am, my oven would be there waiting.

Banana Oatmeal Waffles (From Dorie Greenspan’s Waffles From Morning to Midnight)

4 T unsalted butter

1 cup old fashioned oats, (not instant)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 T double acting baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

3 T firmly packed brown sugar, dark or light

1 ½ cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

2 medium size ripe bananas, thinly sliced crosswise

Maple syrup or honey for topping

Preheat your waffle iron. If you want to hold the finished waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200F.

Melt the butter; reserve. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and brown sugar. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk and eggs with the whisk until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Mix in the banana slices and melted butter.

Lightly butter or spray the grids of your iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out a full ½ to 2/3 cup of batter (or a little more than the amount recommended by your waffler’s manufacturer) onto the grids. This batter is thick and lumpy, so push and spread it to the edge of the grids with a metal spatula or wooden spoon. Close the lid and bake until golden and crisp. (It may need a little longer than other waffles because the batter is thick.) Serve the waffles immediately or keep them, in a single layer, on a rack in the preheated oven while you make the rest of the batch. Stir the batter between waffles to redistribute the banana slices.

Makes about five 6 ½ inch round waffles.

November 04, 2007

Yay Mail! Yay bacon!

I have been unable to get to my mailbox for four days. My physical mailbox that is. The one I have to walk down the driveway to get to, has been missing. A gas line is being put into the ground along the road outside my house and in order to lay down the piping, they temporarily confiscated my mailbox. That meant no mail for me until today when I finally got in the car and drove to the post office to collect it myself. And what did I find waiting for me? A letter from a friendly fellow blogger that contained a recipe for Bacon and Peanut Butter Muffins from King Arthur Flour. Yes, you read that correctly: bacon AND peanut butter. The photo above is the one I scanned from the letter, I haven't actually had time to make these yet, but I will...

While we're on the wonderful topic of bacon, another friendly food blogger sent me an email a while back linking me to this recipe for bacon vodka. Once again, the picture is not my own, but rather one that I stole from that website as I have not yet had the chance to make it either. I suppose the sound of a bacontini isn't overly appealing, but I was thinking it might be interesting to make a vodka cream pasta using the bacon vodka. Think about it...

And has anyone tried that chocolate bacon bar? I'm convinced it would be good. But then again, I loved bacon brittle. Long live the pig.

November 02, 2007

You Know You Live In the Country When...

Cloudy skies, a cold wind, bursts of rain and muddy grounds couldn’t keep the spectators from gathering to watch the pumpkins fly. Pumpkins fly? They do at the Canadian Punkin Chuckin Championships in Kemble. For the past 3 years this event has been held in Kemble, Ontario, (about three hours north west of Toronto) and teams have built a variety of contraptions all in the hopes of being able to launch a pumpkin the furthest. Punkin Chuckin isn’t the only thing on the ballot though, it’s a weekend long event which also includes a property decorating contest, carnival games, haunted house and Halloween dance.

Teams can enter their pumpkin chuckers into one of five categories: trebuchets, floating arm trebuchets, catapults, air powered canons and human power assisted. While each of the launchers were fun to watch, the crowd favourite was certainly the compressed air powered Jack-O-Launcher which could send pumpkins an incredible 2040 feet. Honourable mentions in the crowd pleasing department go to the two catapults that fired backwards into the mass of onlookers. Near death experiences are always cause for some excitement.

Through four rounds of punkin chuckin people stuck it out in the mud and the rain, seeking shelter in the beer tent when necessary. Local goodies were also on sale such as butter tarts from the Balmy Beach Bakery. But if getting dry was what you were after, there was no better way than with a bowl of pumpkin chili and a sandwich, made and served to you by the lovely gals from the Women’s Institute. If you happened to make it through to the final round of punkin chuckin, you were rewarded with your choice of leftover pumpkins to take home to carve or to turn into pie, (I did both!).

I actually made a sour cream pumpkin pie with caramel sauce on top, but I didn’t take a picture, so here’s a pumpkin pie I made last year. Clearly this post is lacking in the food department, but I hope it has taught all you city dwellers the truth about pumpkins: Not only are they tasty and make great decoration, but they fly exceptionally well! If we’re ever invaded around Halloween, the Kemble canons have got us covered… Mission accomplished.